Traumatic responses to relationships
Kalila Badali is an alt-folk/art-pop singer-songwriter and psychotherapist based in Toronto. Her music strikes an ethereal balance between witchy folk and danceable (yet moody) pop.
She wrote “Dotty Mae” after spending a whole summer working seven days a week as a new psychotherapist and an inclusion specialist at a summer camp in Toronto. To conclude this busy summer, she celebrated with her beloved co-workers at a cottage near Presqu’ile beach in Prince Edward County. There, she met Dotty Mae and had my tarot read for the first time, sitting cross-legged at the edge of a forest.
The reading brought up questions and thoughts she had been having about psychologist Pete Walker’s fight, flight, freeze, and fawn defences, in relation to processing my recent and past relational disappointments and traumas. Lyrics like How do I know, to run? How do I see the way out? They are centred around hypervigilance and genuinely not being sure how to tell if situations are actually safe or dangerous, whether to stay or leave a romantic partner or even a friend.
I wanted to feature dance at the centre of the video. Together with Bryony McCaughey, I practised dancing to “Dotty Mae” for many months before the shoot and articulated a frame for the type of dance (“structured improv” and moving tableaus).
The music video narrative plays with similar themes to the song “Dotty Mae” – more specifically about inflated traumatic responses to relationships. The video has two locations: the forest and the beach. The forest scene plays on the fight responses to trauma, further symbolized by a Stag-Horned Beetle’s pincers in the form of a headpiece. Meanwhile, shots on the beach represent a more fawning, attach-cry stance that sits in contrast to the hardness of the forest persona.
This video and this song have a pleading, neurotic and chaotic energy – it’s about protection, chronic doubt, hiding in plain sight, and reaching for solace in anything and everything that could offer an answer, education, therapists, drugs, and even in tarot readers like Dotty Mae.